No. 32: Cameron Clyne (CEO, NAB). Clyne might look more like a nightclub bouncer than a big-time banker — at 198 centimetres, with shoulders as broad as a barn door — but the former rugby union lock-forward’s style is all soft touch.

He says he relishes people telling him where he has gone wrong, just as long as it is constructive: “If you have to get past five secretaries and three security doors to find me, staff are very unlikely to bring me a problem,” he once told The Sunday Times.

Clyne has been the driving force behind NAB’s aggressive “break up” strategy, the advertising campaign it launched on Valentine’s Day this year to try to woo customers from the other banks. Recently more of a business lender, Clyne’s push to bulk up NAB’s retail banking — based on a promise that NAB is “different” from the other majors — was a success.

Some 225,000 customers shifted their allegiance to NAB in the five months after the break up, a big win for the bank. It’s that success that some think could perhaps translate to politics.

Clyne’s name has been tossed around as a perfect fit for the ALP. He’s a friend of Wayne Swan and once gave a job to former Kevin Rudd spin doctor George Wright (before Wright went on to become ALP national secretary). — Tom Cowie

No.31: James Packer (Chair, Crown).  James Packer certainly can’t match his famous father for clout. But the war he’s waging to build a second Sydney casino shows that he comes from the same powerful gene pool. And it proves the Packer name still rings loud with the nation’s decision makers.

The gaming and pay-TV tycoon’s $5 billion fortune– somewhat reduced by a couple of bad bets in US casinos in 2008 — is also a powerful tool in getting him what he wants, as is his willingness to take risks and create jobs.

Big Jim already has the Liberal premier of NSW, Barry O’Farrell, eating out of his hand on the casino, and he has now enlisted the ALP’s dream team, Karl Bitar and Mark Arbib, who did such a brilliant job of seizing control of the NSW Labor party, before they ran it into the wall and wrecked it.

No doubt he’s paying the pair extremely well to help him get a hold of Echo Entertainment, owners of Sydney’s Star casino.

Whether or not James gets what he wants this time, The Power Index reckons his public campaign says a lot about how much he’s changed since his father died in December 2005. At the depths of the GFC in early 2008, there was talk of him being depressed, almost suicidal, and of him cashing it all in or privatising the empire to avoid public scrutiny. Recently, he has looked relaxed and confident in public, and much happier in his own skin. He seems much more mature, much more his own person.

He may never be as powerful as his father, but he appears to finally be out of his shadow. — Paul Barry

No.30: Gail Kelly (CEO, Westpac). From teacher to bank teller to Big Four CEO … not a typical CV sure, but there’s not much that’s standard about Gail Kelly.

With her brightly-coloured suits, silver pixie haircut and white picket fence-sized teeth, Kelly has an unmistakable presence in the corporate world. And inevitably, “first female Big Four CEO” gets included in every profile written about her, along with all the implied responsibility of being one of the few women in her game to smash through the glass ceiling.

Westpac is huge; as Australia’s second biggest bank it has a $300 billion home-loan book and commands a market share of 20% in home lending and deposits. Last year, the company posted an annual profit of $6 billion, with assets of $618 billion. But it’s not all cruisy. Her key multi-brand strategy, including the resurrection of the once-defunct Bank of Melbourne, has divided investors and analysts.

Still, Kelly can be as tough as nails. Smart, fierce and energetic, she has sacrificed plenty to get where she is today. She left her home country of South Africa in 1997, in the shadows of apartheid, to bring her family to Australia. — Tom Cowie